Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Dickinson 1211, 1216, 538

It’s Hour with itself
The Spirit never shows –
What Terror would enthrall the Street
Could Countenance disclose

The Subterranean Freight
The Cellars of the Soul –
Thank God the loudest Place he made
Is licensed to be still.

In this poem, uncommunicative spiritual suffering is posited as inwardly clamorous yet privileged to be silent, as if the suffering - when the spirit's awful communicative forum with itself is 'still' - can be redeemed, or at least consoled, by transcendental means.

Similarly, in the first stanza of another poem of Dickinson's, spiritual life, uncommunicative with nature, engages with itself in transcendental communication. In this poem's second stanza such alienated 'cold' communing, which is analogous to the first poem's cellar-forum, even creates 'Delight' out of its access to the transcendent:

A Wind that rose though not a Leaf
In any Forest stirred –
But with itself did cold commune
Beyond the realm of Bird.

A Wind that woke a lone Delight
Like Separation’s Swell –
Restored in Arctic confidence
To the invisible.

But for Dickinson, as a third poem shows, the 'Delight' which transcendence can offer to uncommunicative spiritual suffering, is no more 'difficult', or costly to gain, than the 'Delight' to which suffering brings the communicative - those who can open their eyes to intersubjectivity. Which, you could argue, implies that a Christian project is emphasized, rather than Kierkegaardian closed interiority: even when the realm of worldly experience remains as if Arctic-frozen, a 'Stalactite'. 

Must be a Wo –
A loss or so –
To bend the eye
Best Beauty’s way –

But – once aslant
It notes Delight
As difficult
As Stalactite –

A Common Bliss
Were had for less –
The price – is
Even as the Grace –

Our Lord – thought no
To pay – a Cross –

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